Maxim Commercial Capital is pleased to report it funded hard asset-secured financings for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in 30 states across the United States during the second quarter of 2020. After pivoting quickly in March to safer-at-home working conditions for its 30+ team members, Maxim experienced a steady increase in applications from equipment brokers and vendors for their borrowers with challenged credit. Maxim lends $10,000 to $3,000,000 to SMBs nationwide secured by heavy equipment and real estate to facilitate asset purchases, working capital and to refinance expensive short term debt.
“Maxim was founded during the Great Recession of 2008,” noted Behzad Kianmahd, Chairman and CEO. “We are applying our experiences gained during that time to overcome today’s extraordinary economic challenges and long term uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have reaffirmed our commitment to finance SMBs, which are the backbone of our economy, refreshed our underwriting standards, and are continually improving our infrastructure by investing in technology and communication tools for the benefit of our customers, vendors, brokers and team members.”
During the second quarter, Maxim received numerous applications from business owners with strong credit but negative cash flow due to the economic downturn. Funded transactions for such borrowers included $95,000 secured by a 2019 Mack GR64F Tri-Axle Dump Truck for a growing landscaping company in New Jersey; $42,500 for a seasoned contractor’s purchase of a 2014 Caterpillar 312E Hydraulic Excavator; and, $29,000 to enable a business started up by seasoned contractors to purchase a 2020 Reinert ZR Concrete Pump.
Buyers of used class 8 trucks faced numerous challenges during the second quarter, ranging from lenders shutting down without warning to closed DMVs. Maxim successfully funded deals across the country, including $26,500 for a California-based long-haul truck owner-operator to purchase a 2017 Volvo 780; $20,800 for an Ohio-based transportation company to purchase a 2017 Freightliner Cascadia; and, $23,000 for a Texas-based owner-operator to purchase a 2016 Freightliner Cascadia to replace a truck with mechanical issues.
“We are humbled and encouraged by our team’s commitment to positively impact our customers’ future success, and by our customers’ continuous effort to make tough but rational decisions to stay in business during these difficult times,” commented Michael Kianmahd, Executive Vice President. “Based on our experience over the past few months, we are confident that SMBs across the nation will contribute substantially to the nation’s recovery from the biggest economic shock since The Great Depression.”
About Maxim Commercial Capital
Maxim Commercial Capital helps small and mid-sized business owners seize opportunity by providing financing in amounts up to $3,000,000 secured by heavy equipment and real estate. Maxim facilitates equipment purchases, provides working capital and refinances debt for companies across all industries located nationwide. Through Maxim’s tailored financing programs, businesses unlock capital tied up in underleveraged assets, often replacing expensive short-term debt and daily repayment working capital loans with longer term capital. As a leading provider of transportation equipment finance, Maxim funds up to 75% of the acquisition cost of class 8 and class 6 trucks, trailers and reefers for owner-operators and small businesses. Learn more at www.maximcc.com or by calling 877.776.2946.
VAN NUYS, CA, July 13, 2021: The Fundworks, LLC, a leading a tech-enabled small business finance company, announced the recent closing of a $25.0 million Credit Facility with a commercial bank and the sale of $20.0 million of Senior Secured Notes to a group of U.S.-based institutional investors. The Credit Facility is expandable up to a maximum of $50.0 million, representing a total capital raise of up to $70.0 million. These transactions refinanced the Company’s existing Senior Credit Facility and subordinated debt and provide substantial excess capital to fund the continued growth of its small business funding platform.
“We are very pleased to announce this financing, which will allow us to significantly expand our ability to provide funding to our small business client base,“ said Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Evan Smiedt. “This new capital strategically positions The Fundworks to be the funder of choice for small businesses as they re-accelerate growth after a difficult and uncertain 2020. Quick access to capital is key for small businesses to succeed and we are very happy to be well capitalized when our clients need us the most.”
“Given the volatile markets and challenging funding environment in our sector, our ability to close these transactions with multiple, large and established financial institutions is a strong endorsement of the The Fundworks and the continued efforts by our employees and partners to put our clients first,“ said Bradley Smiedt, Co-Founder and Chairman. “We look at the closing of this financing as a significant next step in the growth and success of our Company.”
Brean Capital, LLC served as the Company’s Exclusive Financial Advisor and Placement Agent on both transactions.
About The Fundworks:
The Fundworks is a tech-enabled finance platform providing working capital solutions to merchants to grow their businesses, take advantage of short-term opportunities and fund seasonal business fluctuations. The Company’s proprietary technology platform makes the opaque, time-consuming process of obtaining capital simple, fast and reliable. Since inception, Fundworks has funded nearly $400 million to over 8,300 small businesses throughout the United States. The Company is headquartered in Van Nuys, CA. For more information, please visit: https://www.thefundworks.com/.
For more information/ questions/ interview requests / media inquiries, please contact: Evan Smiedt
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: (844) 644-FUND
We recently sat down with Todd Hamblet, Fundbox’s new Chief Legal Officer, and asked his thoughts about what legislative or legal issues would be shaping the fintech industry this year. Between presidents and precedents, decisions are coming down within the next 12 months that will have a significant effect on the way Fundbox and other fintechs do business. Here’s what Todd had to say:
Q: What key issues or predictions do you see when it comes to legal compliance in the fintech industry in 2020?
A: My basic view is that I expect to see continued efforts to regulate the financial services industry and fintech. These regulations are likely to focus on protection of consumer and commercial borrowers, privacy, or data protection. That said, I don’t think that innovation and regulation are incompatible. I think that there is sensible regulation that can achieve the goals of protecting consumers of financial services without completely stifling fintech innovation.
I think the outcome of the election will have a significant bearing on how active regulators are in the fintech space. In the absence of leadership from Washington, I’m concerned that we’re going to continue to see state-by-state legislation instead of a federal overlay. California and New York are two states actively working to fill this void. State versus federal regulation creates the challenge of needing to comply with 50 state requirements, which sometimes might be at odds with each other, as opposed to a more unified regulatory regime. You just have to spend a lot of resources in researching, staying up to date, and modifying what in many cases is a fairly streamlined product offering to comply with different state laws.
I worry that too disparate of a regulatory regime can, in fact, stifle innovation. It won’t stop innovation, but it can make it more challenging. I am certainly not opposed to sensible regulation, but sometimes the best intentions can lead to anomalous outcomes. You always have good actors and bad actors, and in our space, for example, we’re trying to disrupt a very traditional way of underwriting and lending in a commercial space that just hasn’t been compatible with or user friendly for small businesses.
The small business community is under-served, in part because you’re talking about smaller dollars than your traditional banks are even willing to underwrite. You’ve started to see community banks and credit unions step in a bit, but even in those cases, the lending model is still paper-heavy. It’s not optimized for all the data that’s out there, the ability to use technology, or alternative data sources. I think that fintech companies like Fundbox are serving and filling a niche that is really valuable for small businesses. Think about a mom-and-pop shop. They need to be able to run their business. They don’t need to spend all their time going back and forth with their bank, trying to get a loan. They need quick access to capital that may be just to solve a short-term problem. It may be to meet payroll during a slow month. That’s the problem we’re trying to solve, and also doing it in a way that is bringing it into the 21st century. This means using alternative data sources and machine learning, not relying exclusively on credit reports or FICO scores, and using other metrics to look at the credit worthiness of an enterprise.
I find it really exciting. It’s really satisfying to know that we’ve helped a lot of small businesses at the heart of our economy. So I think additional regulation is inevitable, but I hope it’s reasonable and sensible, and that it serves the purpose of protecting the borrower but doesn’t impose so many requirements or obligations that it makes it impractical for a fintech company to try to serve that population.
Q: Is there anything else you see happening in the realm of compliance?
A: I think we’re going to continue to face additional regulation in the areas of privacy and data protection. In California, we have the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that came online on January 1st. This is a good example of how, in the absence of federal action, states are going to take up their own legislation. California is the first to have enacted a comprehensive privacy act that companies are now trying to deal with. It impacts not just California companies but any companies dealing with California residents.
We’re tracking legislative developments in other states who are looking to implement their own privacy acts. Absent some sort of harmonized federal overlay (such as the GDPR in Europe), if you have 50 states with disparate privacy regulations, it just becomes very challenging. Of course, we will do everything we can to be compliant, but we have limited resources—we’d love to dedicate our resources to developing and improving products for our customers, instead of worrying about whether we’re tripping up a novel requirement of a particular state’s privacy law. So a federal framework would be really helpful. I already mentioned regulation in the context of the next election, and I think whether there is interest in Washington with a federal privacy law will depend on that outcome.
Q: Aside from the 2020 election, what other issues is the fintech industry keeping an eye on?
A: There have been some interesting cases out there in the fintech space. There’s one case in particular that has created some uncertainty and confusion: the Madden case. Although the case was decided a few years ago, it looks like federal regulators are trying to take steps to clarify the ruling. I hope that 2020 brings better visibility into what’s going to happen there, since the uncertainty is impacting the financial services industry and fintechs.
Generally, Madden is a case that dealt with the “valid when made” concept. When a bank makes a loan, there are various usury laws that can be applicable, depending on the state in which the loan was originated. Under federal law, an FDIC-insured state chartered bank can originate a loan using the maximum rate of interest permitted in the home state of the bank and then “export” that rate into another state, regardless of the state where the borrower is located. Some states have higher usury rates than others, so the maximum rate can vary. It is well settled that when that loan was initially made by the bank, it was “valid when made.” But what happens if that bank decides to sell off that loan to a third party in another state? The Madden case (read broadly) calls into question the “valid when made” doctrine. It said that if the loan had an X percent interest rate when it was originated, but it was sold to a third party in a state that had a usury rate lower than X, that original interest rate may not be valid anymore because of the transfer. Studies have shown that this ruling has led to a decrease in the availability of credit in the states affected by the decision.
Banks have to rely on being able to originate and sell loans—this is a well-settled concept. The question is whether the Madden case is distinguishable enough from the traditional practice that it applies only to a particular scenario (a sale of debt) or whether it is calling into question the broader concept. The reason this impacts fintechs is because a lot of us rely on bank partnerships in order to serve customers in all 50 states. Through these partnerships, fintechs may acquire the receivables on loans originated by partner banks. The question for fintechs in the context of Madden is: when the fintech acquires a receivable, does the interest rate originally offered by the bank partner continue to be valid…or because the fintech is a third party, does some other interest rate cap apply depending on where the borrower is located?
Congress and some other federal regulators are working to clarify that the Madden case should be limited to a narrow set of facts, and that it should not serve as a precedent for disrupting the traditional understanding of “valid when made”. This would be welcome relief to the entire financial services industry, including fintechs. We hope to have this clarification in 2020.
OnDeck, the reigning king of small business lending among U.S. financial technology companies, is sharpening its business strategies. Among its new initiatives: the company is launching an equipment-finance product this year, targeting loans of $5,000 to $100,000 with two-to-five year maturities secured by “essential-use equipment.”
In touting the program to Wall Street analysts in February, OnDeck’s chief executive, Noah Breslow, declared that the $35 billion, equipment-finance market is “cumbersome” and he pronounced the sector “ripe for disruption.”
While those performance expectations may prove true – the first results of OnDeck’s product launch won’t be seen until 2020 – Breslow’s message seemed to conflict with OnDeck’s image as a public company. Rather than casting itself as a disruptor these days, OnDeck emphasizes the ways that its business is melding with mainstream commerce and finance.
Consider that the New York-based company, which saw its year-over-year revenues rise 14% to $398.4 million in 2018, is collaborating with Visa and Ingo Money to launch an “Instant Funding” line-of-credit that funnels cash “in seconds” to business customers via their debit cards. With the acquisition of Evolocity Financial Group, it is also expanding its commercial lending business in Canada, a move that follows its foray into Australia where, the company reports, loan-origination grew by 80% in 2018.
Perhaps most significant was the 2018 deal that OnDeck inked with PNC Bank, the sixth-largest financial institution in the U.S. with $370.5 billion in assets. Under the agreement, the Pittsburgh-based bank will utilize OnDeck’s digital platform for its small business lending programs. Coming on top of a similar arrangement with megabank J.P. Morgan Chase, the country’s largest with $2.2 trillion in assets, the PNC deal “suggests a further validation of OnDeck’s underlying technology and innovation,” asserts Wall Street analyst Eric Wasserstrom, who follows specialty finance for investment bank UBS.
“It also reflects the fact that doing a partnership is a better business model for the big banks than building out their own platforms,” he says. “Both banks (PNC and J.P. Morgan) have chosen the middle ground: instead of building out their own technology or buying a fintech company, they’ll rent.
“J.P. Morgan has a loan portfolio of $1 trillion,” Wasserstrom explains. “It can’t earn any money making loans of $15,000 or $20,000. Even if it charged 1,000 percent interest for those loans,” he went on, “do you know how much that will influence their balance sheet? How many dollars do think they are going to earn? A giant zero!”
Similarly, Wasserstrom says, spending the tens of millions of dollars required to develop the state-of-the art technology and expertise that would enable a behemoth like J.P. Morgan or a super-regional like PNC to match a fintech’s capability “would still not be a big needle-mover. You’d never earn that money back. But by partnering with a fintech like OnDeck,” he adds, “banks like J.P Morgan and PNC get incremental dollars they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
The alliance between OnDeck and old-line financial institutions is one more sign, if one more sign were needed, that commercial fintech lenders are increasingly blending into the established financial ecosystem.
Not so long ago companies like OnDeck, Kabbage, PayPal, Square, Fundation, Lending Club, and Credibly were viewed by traditional commercial banks and Wall Street as upstart arrivistes. Some may still bear the reputation as disruptors as they continue using their technological prowess to carve out niche funding areas that banks often neglect or disdain.
Yet many fintechs are forming alliances with the same financial institutions they once challenged, helping revitalize them with new product offerings. Other financial technology companies have bulked up in size and are becoming indistinguishable from any major corporation.
Big Fintechs are securitizing their loans with global investment banks, accessing capital from mainline financial institutions like J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, and finding additional ways — including becoming publicly listed on the stock exchanges – to tap into the equity and debt markets.
One example of the maturation process: through mid-2018, Atlanta-based Kabbage has securitized $1.5 billion in two bond issuances, 30% of its $5 billion in small business loan originations since 2008.
In addition, fintechs have been raising their industry’s profile with legislators and regulators in both state and federal government, as well as with customers and the public through such trade associations as the Internet Lending Platform Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both individually and through the trade groups, these companies are building goodwill by supporting truth-in-lending laws in California and elsewhere, promoting best practices and codes of conduct, and engaging in corporate philanthropy.
Rather than challenging the established order, S&P Global Market Intelligence recently noted in a 2018 report, this cohort of Big Fintech is increasingly burrowing into it. This can especially be seen in the alliances between fintech commercial lenders and banks.
“Bank channel lenders arguably have the best of both worlds,” Nimayi Dixit, a research analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence wrote approvingly in a 2018 report. “They can export credit risk to bank partners while avoiding the liquidity risks of most marketplace lending platforms. Instead of disrupting banks, bank channel lenders help (existing banks) compete with other digital lenders by providing a similar customer experience.”
It’s a trend that will only accelerate. “We expect more digital lenders to incorporate this funding model into their businesses via white-label or branded services to banking institutions,” the S&P report adds.
Forming partnerships with banks and diversifying into new product areas is not a luxury but a necessity for Fundation, says Sam Graziano, chief executive at the Reston (Va.)-based platform. “You can’t be a one-trick pony,” he says, promising more product launches this year.
Fundation has been steadily making a name for itself by collaborating with independent and regional banks that utilize its platform to make small business loans under $150,000. In January, the company announced formation of a partnership with Bank of California in which the West Coast bank will use Fundation’s platform to offer a digital line of credit for small businesses on its website.
Fundation lists as many as 20 banks as partners, including most prominently a pair of tech-savvy financial institutions — Citizens Bank in Providence, R.I. and Provident Bank in Iselin, N.J. — which have been featured in the trade press for their enthusiastic embrace of Fundation.
John Kamin, executive vice president at $9.8 billion Provident reports that the bank’s “competency” is making commercial loans in the “millions of dollars” and that it had generally shunned making loans as meager as $150,000, never mind smaller ones. But using Fundation’s platform, which automates and streamlines the loan-approval process, the bank can lend cheaply and quickly to entrepreneurs. “We’re able to do it in a matter of days, not weeks,” he marvels.
Not only can a prospective commercial borrower upload tax returns, bank statements and other paperwork, Kamin says, “but with the advanced technology that’s built in, customers can provide a link to their bank account and we can look at cash flows and do other innovative things so you don’t have to wait around for the mail.”
Provident reserves the right to be selective about which loans it wants to maintain on its books. “We can take the cream of the crop” and leave the remainder with Fundation, the banker explains. “We have the ability to turn that dial.”
The partnership offers additional side benefits. “A lot of folks who have signed up (for loans) are non-customers and now we have the ability to market to them,” he says. “After we get a small business to take out a loan, we hope that we can get deposits and even personal accounts. It gives us someone else to market to.”
As a digital lender, Provident can now contend mano a mano with another well-known competitor: J.P. Morgan Chase. “This is the perfect model for us,” says Kamin, “it gives us scale. You can’t build a program like this from scratch. Now we can compete with the big guys. We can compete with J.P. Morgan.”
For Fundation, which booked a half-billion dollars in small business loans last year, doing business with heavily regulated banks puts its stamp on the company. It means, for example, that Fundation must take pains to conform to the industry’s rigid norms governing compliance and information security. But that also builds trust and can result in client referrals for loans that don’t fit a bank’s profile. “For a bank to outsource operations to us,” Graziano says, “we have to operate like a bank.”
Bankrolled with a $100 million line of credit from Goldman Sachs, Fundation’s interest rate charges are not as steep as many competitors’. “The average cost of our loans is in the mid-to-high teens and that’s one reason why banks are willing to work with us,” Graziano says. “Our loans,” he adds, “are attractively structured with low fees and coupon rates that are not too dramatically different from where banks are. We also don’t take as much risk as many in the (alternative funding) industry.”
Despite its establishment ties, Graziano says, Fundation will not become a public company anytime soon. “Going public is not in our near-term plans,” he told deBanked. Doing business as a public company “provides liquidity to shareholders and the ability to use stock as an acquisition tool and for employees’ compensation,” he concedes. “But you’re subject to the relentlessly short-term focus of the market and you’re in the public eye, which can hurt long-term value creation.”
Graziano reports, however, that Fundation will be securitizing portions of its loan portfolio by yearend 2020.
PayPal Working Capital, a division of PayPal Holdings based in San Jose, and Square Inc. of San Francisco, are two Big Fintechs that branched into commercial lending from the payments side of fintech. PayPal began making small business loans in 2013 while Square got into the game in 2014. In just the last half-decade, both companies have leveraged their technological expertise, massive data collections, data-mining skills, and catbird-seat positions in the marketplace to burst on the scene as powerhouse small business lenders.
With somewhat similar business models, the pair have also surfaced as head-to-head competitors, their stock prices and rivalry drawing regular commentary from investors, analysts and journalists. Both have direct access to millions of potential customers. Both have the ability to use “machine learning” to reckon the creditworthiness of business borrowers. Both use algorithms to decide the size and terms of a loan.
Loan approval — or denials — are largely based on a customer’s sales and payments history. Money can appear, sometimes almost magically in minutes, in a borrower’s bank account, debit card or e-wallet. PayPal and Square Capital also deduct repayments directly from a borrower’s credit or debit card sales in “financing structures similar to merchant cash advances,” notes S&P.
At its website, here is how PayPal explains its loan-making process. “The lender reviews your PayPal account history to determine your loan amount. If approved, your maximum loan amount can be up to 35% of the sales your business processed through PayPal in the past 12 months, and no more than $125,000 for your first two loans. After you’ve completed your first two loans, the maximum loan amount increases to $200,000.”
PayPal, which reports having 267 million global accounts, was adroitly positioned when it commenced making small business loans in 2013. But what has really given the Big Fintech a boost, notes Levi King, chief executive and co-founder at Utah-based Nav — an online, credit-data aggregator and financial matchmaker for small businesses – was PayPal’s 2017 acquisition of Swift Financial. The deal not only added 20,000 new business borrowers to its 120,000, reported TechCrunch, but provided PayPal with more sophisticated tools to evaluate borrowers and refine the size and terms of its loans.
“PayPal had already been incredibly successful using transactional data obtained through PayPal accounts,” King told deBanked, “but they were limited by not having a broad view of risk.” It was upon the acquisition of Swift, however, that PayPal gained access to a “bigger financial envelope including personal credit, business credit, and checking account information,” King says, adding: “The additional data makes it way easier for PayPal to assess risk and offer not just bigger loans, but multiple types of loans with various payback terms.”
While PayPal used the Swift acquisition to spur growth and build market share, its rival Square — which is best known for its point-of-sale terminals, its smartphone “Cash App,” and its Square Card — has employed a different strategy.
OF A FREIGHT TRAIN
By selling off loans to third-party institutional investors, who snap them up on what Square calls a “forward-flow basis,” the Big Fintech barged into small business lending with the subtlety of a freight train. In just four years, Square originated 650,000 loans worth $4.0 billion, a stunning rise from the modest base of $13.6 million in 2014.
Square’s third-party funding model, moreover, demonstrates the benefits afforded from being deeply immersed in the financial ecosystem. Off-loading the loans “significantly increases the speed with which we can scale services and allows us to mitigate our balance sheet and liquidity risk,” the company reported in its most recent 10K filing.
Square does not publicly disclose the entire roster of its third-party investors. But Kim Sampson, a media relations manager at Square, told deBanked that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — “a global investment manager with more than CA$300 billion in assets under management and a focus on sustained, long term returns” – is one important loan-purchaser.
Square also offers loans on its “partnership platform” to businesses for whom it does not process payments. And late last year the company introduced an updated version of an old-fashioned department store loan. Known as “Square Installments,” the program allows a merchant to offer customers a monthly payment plan for big-ticket purchases costing between $250 and $10,000.
Which model is superior? PayPal’s — which retains small business loans on its balance sheet — or Square’s third-party investor program? “The short answer,” says UBS analyst Wasserstrom, “is that PayPal retains small business loans on its balance sheet, and therefore benefits from the interest income, but takes the associated credit and funding risk.”
Meanwhile, as PayPal and Square stake out territory in the marketplace, their rivalry poses a formidable challenge to other competitors.
Both are well capitalized and risk-averse. PayPal, which reported $4.23 billion in revenues in 2018, a 13% increase over the previous year, reports sitting on $3.8 billion in retained earnings. Square, whose 2018 revenues were up 51 percent to $3.3 billion, reported that — despite losses — it held cash and liquid investments of $1.638 billion at the end of December.
King, the Nav executive, observes that Able, Dealstruck, and Bond Street – three once-promising and innovative fintechs that focused on small business lending – were derailed when they could not overcome the double-whammy of high acquisition costs and pricey capital.
“None of them were able to scale up fast enough in the marketplace,” notes King. “The process of institutionalization is pushing out smaller players.”
Conference season will soon kick off, but many attendees are at a loss at how to score big at these events. Without a doubt, trade shows and conferences offer participants a prime opportunity to boost brand exposure, make professional connections and increase sales.
But there’s also a lot of behind-the-scenes work required to turn these events into successful business endeavors. While the playbook won’t be the same for every company, here are some tried-and-true tips to help attendees get the most out of conferences.
Start by determining which conferences to attend. With dozens to choose from, it’s not realistic from a budget, time or value perspective to hit every conference, says Jim Larkin, who manages events for OnDeck. Companies should select conferences based on which ones make the most sense for their goals and objectives. Not all conferences will offer the same benefits to every company or industry professional, frequent conference attendees say.
Ideally, management teams should meet early in the year to weigh the pros and cons of each conference, against the backdrop of the company’s budget. Some factors to consider include where and when the conference is being held, which of your competitors, prospects and customers are likely to attend and how many employees it makes sense to send, if any. “Budgets drive everything and you want to be smart with spending money,” says Janene Machado, Director of Events for deBanked, whose flagship conference, Broker Fair, is scheduled for May 6 in New York. “You need to be strategic about why you are attending a particular conference,” she says.
It’s essential to plan ahead for each conference to make the most out of the event. This includes carefully combing through the agenda, scheduling meetings ahead of time and getting acquainted with the physical layout of the event space. If more than one company representative is attending, it’s also important to coordinate their activities in advance to avoid duplicating efforts and to maximize productivity.
“You have to make your own luck at these conferences,” Larkin says.
Most events have an online or mobile agenda and networking portal that are open to participants at least a few weeks beforehand. Bookmark the sessions you would like to attend, build your wish-list of people you would like to meet and start requesting meetings as soon as possible, says Peter Renton, co- founder and co-chairman of LendIt Fintech, which has an upcoming conference scheduled for April 8 and 9 in San Francisco. “Last year we helped to enable nearly 2,100 meetings at our USA event, and most of those meetings were organized through our networking portal,” Renton says.
Don’t delay when it comes to setting up advance appointments because schedules can fill up quickly, says Monique Ruff-Bell, event director for Money20/20 USA, which will take place in Las Vegas from Oct. 27 through Oct. 30. “Identifying the right contacts beforehand, reaching out and establishing what you’d like to achieve in a short meeting will make your time much more productive,” she says.
It’s fine for attendees to leave some time in their schedule for impromptu meetings as well; just be sure to fill those slots, says Ken Peng, head of business development and marketing at Elevate Funding. “No one should ever be asking, ‘what are we doing next?’ You should know,” he says.
It’s also a good idea to plan ahead for a dedicated meeting space so you’ll have a convenient, comfortable and quiet space to conduct meetings, seasoned conference attendees say. This can be especially important at big conferences where thousands congregate. For those who don’t want, or can’t afford, to pay for a meeting room, it’s a good idea to find a quiet restaurant or coffee shop outside the busy convention center area where you can have quiet, uninterrupted, productive conversations in a relaxed environment, says Larkin of OnDeck. Don’t choose the heavily frequented coffee shop next to the hotel where meetings are sure to be disrupted by heavy foot traffic, he says. “Get away from the noise, the hustle, the chaos. Quiet is king.”
Conferences can be expensive, so it’s important to make the right decisions with the available budget. For instance, companies don’t have to miss out on promotional opportunities just because the highest level of sponsorship is out of reach for their budget. Instead, look for creative ways to make an impact without breaking the bank, says Stephanie Schlesinger, director of marketing for LEND360.
Schlesinger suggests that would-be sponsors have an open conversation with conference organizers about what they can afford to spend and what they hope to reap in return for their marketing dollars. She offers the examples of companies that have sponsored popcorn breaks, pens and pads of paper, badges, lanyards and other marketing materials. “There could be opportunities to do something very unique. By brainstorming together we can think of outside-the-box opportunities to really make an impact for your brand,” she says.
Another cost consideration is where to stay. Though it can be tempting to save a few bucks by bunking off-site, that’s not always the most prudent decision, frequent conference attendees say.
“Time is really valuable at these shows and events. If you’re staying off-site you have to battle everybody for the cab line, and the increased expense of commuting can offset any cost savings,” says Sheri Chin, chief marketing officer at BFS Capital. Also, staying on-site “gives you more flexibility when unscheduled things come up,” she says.
If staying on premises isn’t an option, conference attendees should make extra efforts to spend considerable time in the bar or lobby of the conference site, says Jeffrey Bumbales, marketing director at Credibly. People will come in and go and it’s an easy way to start conversations, he says.
Conferences typically consume a lot of energy, so Eden Amirav, chief executive and co-founder of Lending Express, recommends participants try to catch people well before they are running on empty. As the conference goes on, it becomes harder to engage people because they also get drained, he says. Typically conference doors open a few hours before the first sessions begin, and this can be an especially effective time to network, Amirav says.
Arriving early also allows participants to find their way around. Ruff-Bell of Money20/20 USA recommends participants walk through the entire event space upon arrival to get their bearings. “Many of these large conferences can be overwhelming, and knowing where to go will help with your time management,” she says.
Bumbales of Credibly also recommends conference attendees pack their schedule tightly—even though it might mean activities extend late into the evening. Instead of calling it quits at 6 p.m. he recommends conference attendees plow through and host evening meetings over dinner or drinks. Even though a participant may be tired, it’s best not to miss these important networking opportunities, he says.
The proper conference mindset includes knowing there’s a good chance sleep won’t be plentiful. To accommodate, Bumbales tries to ensure he’s well-rested before a conference. He also makes sure to pack protein bars and non-perishable snacks for replacement meals as needed throughout the conference in case he needs to eat on the go. The goal is to hit the ground running and be able to focus entirely on conference-related business, he says.
Although numerous social opportunities abound at conferences, not everyone takes advantage. Certainly not everyone is as comfortable approaching strangers. But it’s important for conference- goers to try to break out of their shell whenever possible, industry professionals say. When he first started going to conferences, Gary Lockwood, vice president of business development at 6th Avenue Capital, says he found it difficult to strike up conversations with strangers because it took him out of his “comfort zone.” But he forced himself to make the extra effort, and it has served him well. He says that some of the best connections he’s made have come from these chance meetings at breakfast, lunch or during random breaks.
Although attendees don’t always stay on-site for meals, Peng of Elevate Funding recommends people stick around during these times, if possible. He finds these meals a good opportunity to chat with others in a comfortable setting as opposed to the more strained conversations that can happen when someone approaches him at an exhibitor booth. These informal conversations offer a better chance to build a rapport with someone and learn—in a non- pressured environment—about what the other person does, he says.
Bumbales of Credibly says elevator time offers another opportunity for chance meetings that can turn into business opportunities. Most times, he prefers to take the stairs, but not at conferences. Elevators can be great for short, yet productive conversations. He likes to position himself next to the elevator buttons, which gives him an opening to break the ice. He says he’s had a few business opportunities arise as a result of elevator conversations.
It’s also important not to monopolize anyone’s time says Machado of deBanked. Everyone is there to meet as many people as possible, so she recommends keeping conversations quick, meaningful and relevant.
When he’s talking to someone for the first time, Lockwood of 6th Avenue Capital tries to listen more than he speaks. “I want to listen a little more than I talk in the beginning so I can tailor the conversation to what they need.”
While not every exchange will be fruitful, it’s important to recognize that any conversation could lead to future business; even a commercial real estate broker who has no present connection to merchant cash advance can be a potential partner or resource at some point, Lockwood says.
It’s also a good idea to keep your business cards handy at all times. Bumbales says he’s been in several situations when people don’t have them available, which makes exchanging information more awkward. “It’s a lot less awkward to exchange business cards then it is to ask for someone’s cell phone number,” Bumbales says.
Because each day is so jammed- packed with information, it’s a good idea to take notes so you don’t lose track of important details, says Ruff-Bell of Money20/20 USA. Each person will have his own system, but effective note-taking becomes important for recapping the event back in the office and for sending post-event follow-ups to new contacts. “At the end of each day, go through your notes and clean them up, ensuring you’ll understand the key points and important details weeks later,” she says.
Some conference participants fall short when it comes to following up with new connections they’ve made, but this can be a grave mistake. Follow-up emails are most effective when they are personal, says Peng of Elevate Funding. He recommends attendees jot down a few notes on the business card of each person they meet to jog their memory later on about their conversation. Then, weave details of the conversation into the follow-up email, so the correspondence won’t seem cold, generic or canned, he says.
Remember, conference-goers will be meeting hundreds of other people at the conference, Ruff- Bell says. “Ensure your follow-up is prompt, effective, and most importantly, memorable,” she says
Even though the setting is social, conference attendees need to be mindful about maintaining proper decorum at all times. This is a seemingly obvious rule of thumb that people sometimes forget, conference participants say.
“You’re there for work first, play second,” Peng says.
Professionalism also dictates that attendees and exhibitors should be where they are supposed to be at appropriate times. Peng recalls a conference he attended last year where one of the exhibitors left its booth unmanned for most of the conference. There’s no way to know where an interaction at these booths can lead in terms of new business or face-time with existing clients.
“It’s not doing the company any favors” by passing up the opportunity, he says.
A committee within the New Jersey State Senate convened today at 1:30pm to discuss S2262, a new small business loan disclosure bill. Similar to SB1235 in California, this bill would require all of the following on small business loan contracts less than $100,000:
The APR(This was removed during the committee hearing)
- The annualized interest rate
- The finance charge
- The maximum credit limit available
- The payment schedule
- A list of all broker fees and a description of the broker’s relationship with the lender and any conflicts of interest the broker may have
- These terms must be presented before a business accepts a loan
In addition, any change to the terms that would significantly affect the responsibilities or obligations of the small business concern under the loan must be noticed 45 days in advance.
During the hearing, the bill was amended to define merchant cash advances as small business loans. Kate Fisher of Hudson Cook, LLP who represented the Commercial Finance Coalition (CFC) during the hearing, strongly opposed that amendment. The CFC is a trade association representing small business lending and MCA companies.
Also testifying against it was PJ Hoffman of the Electronic Transactions Association. Other Trade groups are gearing up to oppose the bill as well, deBanked has learned.
The bill was voted through the committee and will continue to move forward.
Kate Fisher’s testimony has been transcribed below:
Senator Pou and committee members: Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today regarding business loan disclosures.
My name is Kate Fisher and I am here today on behalf of the Commercial Finance Coalition, a group of responsible finance companies that provide capital to small and medium-sized businesses through innovative methods. I also am an attorney who helps providers of commercial financing comply with state and federal law.
The Commercial Finance Coalition supports efforts to make business financing more transparent.
The problem is the proposed amendment would define a merchant cash advance as a loan. A merchant cash advance is not a loan.
We all know how a loan works – the lender advances money and the borrower promises to pay it back.
A merchant cash advance is a factoring transaction, in which a business sells a percentage of its future receivables at a discount.
Take for example, a pizza shop. The pizza oven breaks and the owner needs cash to replace it.
In a loan, the pizza shop borrows the money and promises to pay the money back to the lender with interest.
In a merchant cash advance, the pizza shop sells its future receivables to a merchant cash advance company. In exchange for the money to buy that pizza oven, the merchant cash advance company will take 10% of each dollar the pizza shop makes.
If the pizza shop’s sales go down, it will pay less. If the pizza shop’s sales go up, it will pay more. And if the pizza shop is damaged by a hurricane and has to close for repairs, it will pay nothing until it can reopen its doors.
This uncertainty of repayment is why a merchant cash advance is not a loan – the pizza shop in our example, only pays if it sells pizza. Courts have overwhelmingly agreed that a merchant cash advance is not a loan. To quote a recent court decision:
“Receivables purchasing is an accepted form of business transaction, and is not a loan.”
Because a merchant cash advance is not a loan, and there is no fixed payment term, requiring an APR or annual interest rate disclosure would be misleading. For a small business looking for financing, these types of disclosures would only add confusion.
I’m very optimistic that New Jersey can lead the way in providing businesses with disclosures that are helpful – and not misleading.
Axiom Bank, a community bank with retail branches located inside Walmarts throughout Florida, announced this week that it has acquired a factoring company, Allied Affiliated Funding.
“Allied has a proven track record of success with accounts receivable lending, which fits well with Axiom’s broader business plan to diversify and expand our commercial lending operation,” said Axiom Bank President and CEO Daniel Davis. “Allied is also an excellent fit culturally for us. They have a strong management team with the expertise to help emerging companies and businesses that are seeking growth, as well as those that need working capital.”
Allied’s factoring product will add to Axiom Bank’s offering for its small business owners clients. Likewise, Axiom Bank’s capabilities in cash management services will provide new opportunities for Allied’s current commercial clients. Allied is based in Dallas, Texas.
“Axiom is a Florida-based nationally chartered bank with a strong entrepreneurial spirit that is focused on maximizing clients’ potential,” Allied Affiliated Funding CEO Clay Tramel. “Combining forces helps us to deliver on a shared vision with greater creativity by offering new exciting products, including asset-based lending, in the marketplace.”
Tramel will stay on as CEO of what will now be known as Axiom Factoring. Gen Merritt-Parikh will serve as President and be in charge of the day-to-day operations.
Acquiring other companies has been a cornerstone of Axiom Bank’s growth strategy, including branch expansions (there are now 24 branches) as well as the launch of AxiomGO, a mobile banking app. Axiom was also recently approved as an SBA preferred lender, a designation that allows the bank to independently approve and underwrite SBA 7(a) loans.
Established in 1962, Axiom Bank is based in central Florida and provides retail banking services, including checking, deposit, and money market accounts.
SCORCHED EARTH – Controversial Bill Could Eliminate Marketplace Lending, Merchant Cash Advance and Nonbank Business Loans in Illinois (and starve small businesses in the process)April 9, 2016
The State of Illinois wants to make it a Class A misdemeanor for providing small businesses with quick, easy working capital.
The world’s strangest bill, dubbed the Small Business Lending Act, could send marketplace lenders, nonbanks, and merchant cash advance companies to prison for up to 1 year if applicants don’t submit at the very least, their most recent six months bank statements, the previous year’s tax return, a current P&L, a current balance sheet, and an accounts receivable aging.
Loans in which the monthly payments exceed at least 50% of the business’s monthly net income would be illegal, which implies that any business that is either breaking even or running at a loss would be banned from obtaining a loan from alternative sources.
This is not an April Fools’ prank. Not even preemption granted under the National Bank Act or Federal Deposit Insurance Act is safe.
Introduced into the State Senate under the pretense that it would squash predatory lenders, the bill’s licensing and compliance proposal would also effectively outlaw marketplace lending and securitizations by making the sale of loans illegal unless it’s to a bank or another state-licensed party. Even merchant cash advances are referenced specifically but almost as an afterthought and defined in such a way that even traditional factoring companies may be in jeopardy.
No licensee or other person shall pledge, assign, hypothecate, or sell a small business loan entered into under this Act by a borrower except to another licensee under this Act, a licensee under the Sales Finance Agency Act, a bank, savings bank, community development financial institution, savings and loan association, or credit union created under the laws of this State or the United States, or to other persons or entities authorized by the Secretary in writing. Sales of such small business loans by licensees under this Act or other persons shall be made by agreement in writing and shall authorize the Secretary to examine the loan documents so hypothecated, pledged, or sold.
At a time when most fintech lenders are advocating for smart regulation, the State of Illinois apparently wants to end all nonbank commercial finance under $250,000 completely, with the exception of one organization (which we’ll get to shortly).
There are some exemptions granted under this proposal of course. Loans over $250,000 aren’t subject to it, nor are any loans made by Illinois-based banks or credit unions, that is unless they are acting as the agent for another party like say perhaps a marketplace lender.
Hidden inside is also an exemption for nonprofit lenders, a loophole left open for Accion Chicago, the nonprofit masterminds behind the bill who seem to want the entire state’s lending market all for themselves.
Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Collins Introduced This Bill
Senator Collins introduced the legislation as an amendment to Senate Bill 2865 on April 6th. A former journalist, she’s now the chairwoman of the Illinois Senate Financial Institutions Committee. Among her self-professed accolades is that she “has played a key role in addressing predatory lending and high foreclosure rates in Chicago through legislation that protects homebuyers and homeowners with subprime mortgages.” She lists the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act, the landmark Sudan Divestment Act and the Payday Loan Reform Act among her major legislative accomplishments.
It’s no surprise then that sections of the bill are borrowed straight out of the Payday Loan Reform Act. Collins isn’t acting on her own however…
Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers
In January, Senator Collins joined Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers in a call for “new legislation to protect small business owners from misleading and dishonest predatory lenders.” In a closed-door hearing, the committee supposedly heard from business owners, advocates and elected officials on predatory lending.
“Chicago’s small business community deserves protection from the unchecked greed of predatory lenders,” Treasurer Summers said. “While access to capital is the number one concern of small business owners across the state, bank and commercial loans continue to decline, steering them to underhanded lenders. As we continue to urge banking partners to increase their local investment, this new, common-sense legislation would ensure transparency in lending that so often puts our entrepreneurs at risk.”
Of note is his use of the phrase “banking partners” since this bill has bankers all over it, as we’ll get into shortly. Summers represents the Chicago Mayor’s office and the Mayor’s office says they’ve launched this campaign thanks to partners like Accion Chicago.
Accion Chicago and the Mayor’s Office
Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a joint campaign with Accion Chicago to help small businesses avoid predatory lending.
Accion Chicago, ironically makes business loans themselves, having originated 535 loans totaling $4.8 million in 2014 with a maximum loan size of $100,000.
Who is Accion Chicago really?
The Small Business Lending Act virtually ensures that small business loans under $250,000 only be facilitated by banks and nonprofits. Isn’t it convenient then that Accion Chicago is not only a nonprofit, but also funded and staffed by banks?
According to their 2014 annual report, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase were two of their three largest supporters (the third was the US Treasury!). Below are some of the figures:
- JPMorgan Chase
$50,000 – $99,999
- Bank of America
$20,000 – $49,999
- Fifth Third Bank
- PNC Bank
- U.S. Bank
$5,000 – $19,999
- American Chartered Bank
- Alliant Credit Union
- BMO Harris Bank
- First Bank of Highland Park
- First Eagle Bank
- First Midwest Bank
- Ridgestone Bank
- State Bank of India
- The PrivateBank
- Wells Fargo Bank
About a dozen more banks gave less than $5,000.
JPMorgan Chase has also been a partner of the annual Taste of Accion fundraising event, and was the lead sponsor in 2014, a spot that costs $30,000. Benefactor sponsorships which cost $20,000 each were comprised of American Chartered Bank, Capital One, Northern Trust Company, and Wintrust Bank. And the lesser sponsorships? Again, mostly banks.
You know who hasn’t donated to Accion Chicago? Marketplace lenders and merchant cash advance companies.
Accion Chicago raised only $1.4 million in 2014 from public support, the bulk of which came from banks or related traditional financial institutions. So is it just a coincidence that this predatory lending bill they’re supporting grants exemptions to all the banks from compliance?
Accion Chicago’s 2014 Board of Directors includes executives from:
- American Chartered Bank (chairman)
- First Eagle Bank
- JPMorgan Chase
- Ridgestone Bank
- MB Financial Bank
- Talmer Bank & trust
- First Midwest Bank
The 2014 committees were made up almost entirely of bank executives from:
- First Eagle Bank
- The PrivateBank
- Ridgestone Bank
- U.S. Bank
- JPMorgan Chase
- Forest Park National Bank & Trust Co.
- MB Financial Bank
- FirstMerit Bank
- Wintrust Bank
- Standard Bank & Trust Co.
- First Midwest Bank
- Wells Fargo Bank
- Seaway Bank & Trust Co.
- Metropolitan Capital Bank
- Evergreen Bank Group
- First Financial Bank
- PNC Bank
Thanks to the impartial work of these good citizens, they have discovered that small businesses should only be working with banks or nonprofits funded and staffed by banks and have craftily devised a bill to legislate all the alternatives out of existence.
If this was really about predatory lending, then they screwed up big time
All coincidences aside, some of the bill’s rules have nothing to do with protecting borrowers, like the required $500,000 surety bond to become licensed for example. Compare that to California’s $25,000 licensed lender surety bond. And the restriction on being able to sell or securitize a loan, how does that help small businesses?
These requirements and others suggest that it’s about preventing all alternatives from existing in the marketplace, rather than predatory alternatives. The losers would undoubtedly be small businesses and the Illinois job market. Senator Collins and Treasurer Summers, both of whom have a strong track record of empowering their constituents financially, may have underestimated or overlooked the likely negative consequences of this bill.
Several nonbank trade groups are reportedly in the process of formulating a response.
The Commercial Finance Coalition for example, a nonprofit coalition of financial technology companies, told deBanked that they are concerned about the impact this will have on the Illinois job market and will indeed have representatives on the ground in Illinois.
They also wanted to make known that they welcome support from marketplace lenders, nonbanks and merchant cash advance companies in these efforts and that interested parties should email Mary Donahue at email@example.com
To contact Senator Jacqueline Collins who introduced the bill, call her at 217-782-1607.
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